Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Anatomy of a Disaster
(Aired 25 January 2005)

     I think that the time has come for someone to put this entire situation in perspective, I have called this commentary "anatomy of a disaster" and it seeks to define what we saw unfolding before us during the period 14th January 2005 to the 24th January 2005.  

    Even up to this time it is impossible to tell you exactly what happened on the East Coast, why it is still under water and why water kept rising as much as four days after the rains had actually stopped.

    I have always been a lover of detective work and I wanted to look at this situation as a sort of environmental detective would, to examine the clues at my disposal to come up with some kind of an answer to what we were seeing, since what we were seeing made no sense at all. 

    During the eight day period of Friday the 14th of January to Saturday 21st January 2005 we received 31 inches of rainfall the highest rainfall ever in recorded history. Most of this rain 25.66 inches fell between the five day period Friday 14th to Tuesday the 18th January 2005. Therefore only 5.34 inches of rainfall fell between Wednesday 19th and Sunday 23rd but incredible even though the rain had essentially stopped on Tuesday the 18th the water in the East Coast continued to rise, this told me that I was seeing something that was not just bad drainage and high rainfall on the East Coast of Region 4.

    Whilst all of this rain was falling the East Demerara Water conservancy [commonly called the Lama conservancy] levels were as follows on Friday 14th the level of the water in the conservancy was 56.25 GD after 5 days and 25.66 inches of rainfall on the 18th January the level was 58.20 GD but on the 19 it was 58.53 GD, 20th 58.60 GD, 21st 58.80 GD, 22nd 58.80 GD, 23rd 58.20 GD and the 24th 58.65 GD so even though the rains had essentially stopped the level in the Lama kept rising but it never rose higher than 58.80 GD.

    This told me two things 1. That the lama is now incapable of holding water at a level higher than around 58.6 GD and 2. That some drainage water from some high level area probably Timehri was draining into the lama conservancy which was overtopping its banks and flooding the villages along the East Coast. Paragraph 4 of my commentary Rainfall 2005 on the internet aired on the 20th of January but was written on the 18th January suggested that this water had to be coming from the conservancy, apparently I was right.

   I will not dwell on the fact that we had paid someone 400 million to raise the Lama Dam to 64 GD and if he had done what we had paid him to do, none of this would ever have happened. Tonight I am dealing with this incredible phenomenon of the water from the conservancy contributing to this serious situation in the East Coast and because the Government did not ask one engineer from GAPE or anywhere else for that matter for any help or advice, the situation was allowed to get completely out of control. But if this water was coming from high ground near to Timehri perhaps some bulldozers diverting the Maduni creek/river at Soesdike form flowing into the conservancy might have helped.

    I started this by saying that I am a detective story fan and in one of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries he said that when you eliminate the impossible whatever that is left, however improbable has to be the answer to the problem, so in this case it was impossible for the drainage system in the east Coast to be in such bad disrepair to give the result we were seeing especially since we in the East Bank and the West Coast and West Bank were not nearly as bad off as what we saw our poor comrades going through on the East Coast so the answer had to be that the Lama conservancy dam which runs East to West from Ogle to Cane Grove was leaking or overtopping but which ever it happened to be, it was delivering more water on to the land of the residents on the East Coast, than the rainfall itself!

    I would like to remind you that during the footage we saw on Sharma and VCT of the people affected, I heard people who live on the East Coast saying that the water that was flooding them was Black water, this kind of water is only found in the Conservancies, rainfall water is not black and our East Coast people know what they are seeing, most of them being farmers and sugar estate workers and are familiar with the difference between Black water and rainfall runoff water. 

   Now ladies and gentlemen I have lived by some simple rules all my life, one of them is how to attack a problem; stage one is to identify the problem, stage two is to identify what is causing this problem, stage three is to decide on a few courses of action that can solve the problem, and stage four is to decide which of these possible solutions would be the best one to implement.

   In this crisis we never got past stage two of solving the problem, because of poor mobilisation and investigative response by the incompetent political functionaries who Mr. Jagdeo insisted in mobilising to turn this into a political football, imagine ladies and gentlemen that he had Joe Singh, Hugh Cholomondeley and the all of engineers of GAPE in this country willing to help and  but Jagdeo reconstituted the civil defence commission and puts Shadik and Westford in charge of it, the result was that Shadik and Westford who do not know what Black water means were completely out of their depth and they never identified what was causing this problem, in fact they kept denying that there was even a problem with the conservancy, probably because it was their incompetent Government which was responsible for the destruction of this Lama conservancy dam which they spent $400 million of our money to build higher, but which does not now exist.

   Ladies and gentlemen we received 25.66 inches of rain in 5 days there is no way that we can prepare ourselves for such a situation, no government in power could have stopped what happened to the people on the East Bank and the West Bank and West Coast and Georgetown but that should have been what happened on the East Coast as well, since they received the same level of rainfall, not this obscene sight of people standing chest deep in water up to Sunday 23rd January after the heavy rainfall ended on the 18th that was another story altogether and if there was one person in the civil defence team that understood anything about what was going on, they would have understood the magnitude of the problem they were facing.

   So the water was coming out of the Lama conservancy there is no question of that now, so there must now be an immediate response to increase the spillways which relieve the high water level from the Lama and Boerisiri conservancies, since this recent experience has demonstrated clearly that the kokers which brings down the Lama level situated at Land of Canan and Maduni are woefully inadequate to release enough water in heavy rainfall and can actually lead to more damage being caused than the rainfall itself, now because the conservancy levels are much higher than the drainage canal levels which is usually around 50 GD since the average land level along the Coast is 52 GD, this means that the conservancy levels around 57 to 58 GD are kept at around 6 feet higher than the land level we can therefore blow the conservancy to the ocean even if the tide is high so it can operate 24 hours a day but with enough increased capacity to make a difference and stop it from flooding over its banks along the East Coast.

   Ladies and gentlemen I have done a rough calculation to demonstrate the magnitude of this problem the lama conservancy is 200 square miles if you add in the Maduni river/creek you can nearly double this area to 400 square miles whilst the affected area along the coast is around 100 square miles with a drainage system, mostly pumps, designed to take water from that 100 square miles imagine what happens when the combined rainfall from 3 to 5 Hundred square miles has to be drained through this same system designed to drain 100 square miles, answer, you have people standing chest deep in water for weeks.